Lawsuits Against Schools and other Public Entities Limited in Colorado
While many national media columnists and talk show hosts rail against the increasing number of lawsuits filed against schools (usually in California) for such things as enforcing a dress code or failing to enforce equitable play on the playground at recess, what Colorado consumers probably don’t know is that ALL public employees in Colorado (whether employed by the state, county or city or a school district or any other public entity) are IMMUNE from civil liability for their misconduct (with 6 very narrow exceptions). In particular, school employees are completely protected from any civil liability for their misconduct. The only accountability for public school employees for their conduct is a criminal charge if the misconduct violates criminal laws. Here are some examples of public school misconduct that is protected from civil liability under Colorado laws:
–a kindergarten teacher brings in a kitchen knife for her kindergartners to use while carving pumpkins and gives the knife to a 5 year old who holds onto it by the blade and severs ligaments in both hands
–a middle school teacher institutes a sexual relationship with an 8th grader, which ends as the child embarks on very expensive psychotherapy
Amazingly enough, the Colorado law (called the Colorado Governmental Immunity Act) provides remedies for civil liability for negligence in the operation of a jail, but NOT for negligence in the operation of a public school!
Even when the Act allows for civil liability, it caps the recovery for that misconduct at $150,000. That means that even a person who is disabled for life can recover no more than $150,000, after he has proven that the public employee was negligent. Even though a public entity (like the City and County of Denver) may carry many millions of dollars of insurance coverage, the most that any person by law can receive in compensation in this kind of case is $150,000.